August's Top Tips
August brings an abundance of delicious, fresh and healthy, home grown produce, together with a great sense of achievement for the polytunnel gardener. Heat-loving crops, such as tomatoes, pepper, corn cobs, cucumbers, aubergines, melons and many more quickly fill even the largest of baskets this month, so be ready to pick, pickle and freeze! Friends and family, neighbours and work colleagues will be happy to relieve you of any surplus fruit and veg!
You may have more produce than you know what to do with, but it is important to KEEP PICKING so that plants keep producing new fruit well into the autumn.
Don’t forget the two important rules of polytunnel growing during the summer months:
1. Keep VENTILATION to a maximum and allow air to circulate between the plants. Overheating can kill plants. Polytunnel doors should be opened as soon as the sun shines.
2. Keep WATERING regularly and carefully. If the atmosphere is very dry, mist overhead and hose down paths.
CUT BACK foliage and REMOVE any unwanted, diseased or damaged, yellowing foliage as soon as they appear to help prevent the spread of fungal diseases and allow air to move more freely throughout the polytunnel.
Keep FEEDING ripening crops and plants in pots regularly. Switch to high-potash fertilisers to encourage tomatoes, melons, and cucumbers to continue to fruit well.
POT UP strawberries for next year’s undercover crop.
PRUNE fan-trained peaches and nectarines.
PINCH OUT the tops of tomato plants when they have reached the required height, removing the entire stem to just above the topmost pair of leaves. This helps to concentrate the plant’s energy on ripening tomatoes, rather than getting taller. Repeat this process every week or so, when needed.
STAKE peppers and aubergines to help support the plants, keep them upright, and keep them off the ground where they are vulnerable to pests or rotting.
It may only be August, but in the polytunnel it is not too early to be thinking about winter; PREPARE beds for overwintering crops – CLEAR AWAY any spent plants and rejuvenate the soil and beds with fresh compost, and keep SOWING autumn and winter crops.